Project Awesome

Making my life more awesome

Future planning and serendipity

Another thing that happened on Friday – I received a text from my mum, who was looking after Big Girl and Small Girl.  It said “Keeping down the dandelions in your yard” followed by this picture:

Not only was my mum hanging my washing out, there was a tortoise in my yard!  She said it had just wandered in and Big Girl was in two minds about it.  I was quite excited.  Maybe it would stay and no-one would ever reclaim it.  I’ve always wanted a tortoise.

Sadly, by the time I got home it had wandered off again.  The next day I saw my neighbour.  He said the tortoise was his and apologised for its incursion. I said I’d quite hoped to keep it and he said he had a baby one which I could have if I wanted.  I said I’d think about it.

And I have been.  I *really* want a tortoise. It would be amazing.  I’m torn between believing this is serendipity (and you can justify anything if it’s serendipity) and knowing that you have to think carefully before taking on an animal which is likely to outlast you.

The thing is, this is a Leopard Tortoise (not a leopard.  That would be ridiculous).  It’s the 4th largest species of tortoise.  I live in a terraced house with a yard.  There’s nowhere for it to graze.  Part of my plan to improve my life is wanting to do things and having a go.  But I’m not willing to take on a pet with significant care needs (and a risk of salmonella) just to make my life better.

So… I’d need to think about where to keep it indoors.  And where it would live outdoors.  Apparently tortoises really do need grass to graze on.  I have none.  I’d have to think about the costs of adequate heating.  Vet’s bills.  And who will look after it when I die.  And how to look after a reptile, of which I have no experience.

I get very enthusiastic about things.  You could probably say ‘obsessive’ and not be inaccurate, as anyone following my facebook posts about West Wing would agree.  So I’ve been looking at books on tortoises, reading stuff on the internet, posting on a forum, asking for advice, looking on gumtree for people selling or giving away tortoises, trying to convince myself that this is a good idea.  But really, in the rational part of my brain, I know I can’t take on the fourth largest breed of tortoise.  I can’t take on any sort of tortoise at the moment.  Ex-Husband and I have yet to agree on the future of the house I live in.  So my plan is to get that sorted, so I know where I’ll be living, and then start planning – make my yard secure, get some grass, work out where the tortoise could live, and get one in the future.

Yes, I have a future-tortoise-plan.  This was another thing I wouldn’t have anticipated a year ago.



This, my friends, is a triumph

I wanted to write about my day out on Friday.  But I’m struggling.  Everything I write sounds banal.  There’s an overuse of the word ‘lovely’.  The thing is, I had a really good day out with my best friend in a beautiful city.  It was nice.  I was happy.  And that, my friends, is a triumph.  A little more than nine months after my husband left me in devastating circumstances, I spent our tenth wedding anniversary with someone other than my husband, and I had a good day.  Not despite everything.  Not holding back tears.  Not wishing I was with him. Just having a fabulous day.

And here’s what we did: we had brunch at Bettys – Eggs Benedict followed by cake, and we arrived just in time – we waited for a few minutes for a table in the beautiful light tea room, but by the time we left the queue was to the door.  We spent some time (and money) in the Oxfam bookshop.  We had coffee.  We had our nails done.  We did some shopping.  We had dinner at Jamie’s Italian.  I had a granita thing, which is a fancy slush puppy with alcohol.  I felt happy all day.  It was sunny. York was beautiful. People were friendly.  I was with my best friend.

We went on the York Wheel before getting the train home.  I’m not really scared of heights.  I’m scared of being high up on things made by people which could feasibly fall to bits.  Rollercoasters, areoplanes, swimming pool flumes. Most things in fact.  So I’ve always avoided these wheels, thinking I would be scared and hate them.

It turns out I was right.  I spent the whole journey holding my best friend’s hand and hoping we weren’t going to die, while she spent it talking calmly to me, like you do to someone looking a bit crazy and holding a sharp weapon.  We didn’t die, which I am putting down to good luck and not risking it again.  She says I should be proud of myself because I didn’t make them stop the wheel after the first time round.  I’m feeling lucky to have a best friend who can talk me through grief, terror and misery. And has promised we can do it all again next year.

Maybe not the wheel though.


Paris 2013

This is not exactly how tomorrow was supposed to go.  Just less than a year ago, Ex-Husband and I started talking about the possibility of leaving both children with my parents for a couple of nights.  I should be heading off to Paris to celebrate my tenth wedding anniversary.

But you know what? I’m actually not that fussed.


My parents are coming to look after Big Girl and Small Girl.  I am going to York.  My best friend and I are going to Betty’s.  We’re going to the York Cocoa House.  There’s an outside chance that we’ll do something that doesn’t involve eating. It is going to be an amazing day.

I wouldn’t have guessed it wouldn’t matter. I’m not, in any way, over the hurt, the anger, the sense of betrayal. I experience the loss again every time my children are away from me. But that’s the loss of my children. I hope to learn to live with it but I don’t think I’ll ever get over it. I still struggle with having a failed marriage, and the loss of the future and the family I anticipated.  But I think I’m over him. I quite like being single. Suddenly I can see a world of possibilities opening up.

I expect next summer Big Girl and Small Girl will both go on holiday with Ex-Husband. Perhaps I’ll go to Paris then…



Big Girl’s busy day

So it turns out that all I need to do to get my children to sleep (today, anyway) is wear them out. Today we have been to see Peppa Pig – a Max Spielman fun day where I paid £5 to force Big Girl to have her picture taken with a Max Spielman employee in an alarming costume. Then we had coffee and cake with a friend who has children almost exactly the same age as Big Girl and Small Girl. I’m not sure why I still believe, against all evidence, that taking my children to a coffee shop will be fun for anyone. There was crying. There was snatching. There was running up and down stairs. And that was just Holly and me.

After this we walked home, going on one of those merry-go-rounds, which Big Girl loved and then cried when she had to get off (Why do nicer activities lead to more crying? Is this fair? How many more years should I expect of this?). On the way home we popped into a table-top sale in a massive church, where Big Girl got to drive one of those red plastic cars which all children love and no house has room for. We also had a go on a prize-every-time tombola, which I later realised is just a way of selling all your jumble for a pound each and making everyone feel like a winner. I am stealing this idea for my next fundraising event. We won these attractive table-cloth clips, which I am hoping to dispose of when Big Girl isn’t looking.



When we got home we decided to go to the local park (if I’d had any idea the weather would be so good we’d have gone to the zoo all day instead). It has recently had a make-over and has fantastic fountains. Big Girl ran around in them for half an hour in her swimming costume while Small Girl cried if the water touched her.

Then it was swings, slides, roundabouts, the ducks, lots of running around and climbing on rocks and balancing on walls and finally home for some tears, tantrums and a more manageably-sized Peppa Pig, some tea, a bath and into bed. And she was asleep within minutes quite happily.

Me? I’m not sure I could manage this level of activity every day.  But I might be willing to try.


Piccadilly Gardens photo © Copyright David Dixon and licensed for reuse under thisCreative Commons Licence

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So, apparently a sticker isn’t the answer to everything.

Recently I took the sides off Big Girl’s cot, partly because Ex-Husband was getting her a bed at his new house, partly because I wanted to use one of the sides to help prevent Small Girl throwing herself over the end of the new bed I bought to replace the one Ex-Husband took away.  And, probably, partly because she’s my first child and I want her to do new things.  I knew that it could be one of those decisions I’d regret, and that I would have known I’d probably regret it while actually making it, and that I made anyway despite everything because I never listen to good advice, especially not from myself.

A week or so ago, I went into Big Girl’s room to see why she wasn’t asleep.  She had taken the mattress off her bed and added it to a pile of everything else in the room in order to climb onto the windowsill.  I was impressed by the innovation, less impressed by, well, everything else.  Another night, I heard the music on her baby monitor playing.  This surprised me as the baby monitor is on a chest of drawers and out of her reach.  It turns out that it is only out of reach as long as she doesn’t empty all the clothes out of the drawers, open them and use them as a ladder.  Tonight, I thought she was doing really well at staying in bed and playing or reading quietly, as requested.  Until I heard her shouting “hello cat” and discovered she’d again climbed on the windowsill, this time without the aid of her mattress.

I may be regretting the hasty removal of the cot sides.  I am thinking about putting them back on.

I have been trying stickers.  When she goes to bed, we talk about getting a sticker, and what she needs to get one: stay in bed, go to sleep, play quietly or read, and NO MESSING.  This has worked.  Sometimes.  Sometimes she stays in bed and goes to sleep.  Other nights… well, last night she stood at the stair gate across her bedroom doorway, shouting, crying and screaming that she didn’t want to go to sleep, until she woke Small Girl up.  She also claims that she wants to use the potty, although she doesn’t.  But how can you deny a toddler the opportunity to have a wee?

She’s two-and-a-half.  I’m not worried about her behaviour.  I just don’t know what to do about it.  Stickers aren’t working. She’s not sleeping.  Should I just put the side back on her bed and leave it until she’s older?

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Ongoing Awesomeness

If my journey into single-parenting was a pregnancy, I’d be expecting a baby any day now. 9 months ago Ex-Husband left me. While it doesn’t feel that momentous, I notice the date each month – but it doesn’t make me cry any more.

And as far as single-parenting goes, I’ve got really good at managing two children, making decisions for them, living with mountains of washing up and inventing meals from 5 unrelated items in my fridge because I’ve failed to order shopping yet again.

Co-parenting is a different matter. We’ve not got the hang of that yet. Trying to make decisions about your children with someone who has a completely different idea about what they need and no longer gives a shit about what you want is, it’s fair to say, a challenge. Trying to separate out what is best for them from how I feel is really hard – but I am doing a good job.

And what about making my life more awesome? I feel like I’m falling down there. I’m existing, but my life is miserable. Well, I say it’s miserable. A couple of weeks ago I went out for my birthday – drinks and cocktails at The Cornerhouse followed by dancing at Fab Cafe. And this weekend I went to Chill Factore and threw myself down a snowy slope on various different bits of equipment, followed by food and cocktails at Hard Rock cafe. It sounds pretty miserable, I’m sure you’ll agree.

It’s just the other bits. The rest of my life. I blame the West Wing. I’ve become addicted to the passive escapism, the dream of my life being meaningful in the way that only fictional members of a US administration can hope for.

And while my original goals (writing, sewing, climbing, learning) are not some kind of Holy Grail for a satisfying existence, they were things I enjoyed doing. Climbing is on hold – I need to see how my free time will look when new contact arrangements for the children start in September – before I commit to a course to learn how to belay and mess about with ropes.

But sewing – I’m missing the satisfaction of spending a few hours creating something that I’ll then never wear or use. So I’m setting myself a goal. Here are two pairs of jeans which have worn into holes. I’m going to use them to create two new items in the next month six weeks or so – watch this space…



Pants on fire

Yesterday I saw Big Girl tear pages out of Little Girl’s red book (fortunately it was the boys’ weight charts, so not exactly crucial).  When I asked her, she said she didn’t do it.  I watched her push Little Girl over and then deny it.  She emptied a bottle of water over the carpet and was adamant that she hadn’t.  She had clearly stood on a box to take things off the mantelpiece and she… she lied about it.

She’s two-and-a-half.  It’s a developmental stage.  All children go through it.  I know, I know. It’s actually a sign of intelligence.  She’s worked out that I don’t know everything she knows.  Unfortunately for her, she hasn’t quite worked out that if I see her do something, I am likely to know that she’s done it. But still.  When my godson started lying really ineptly, I found it amusing.  When it’s my little girl, it makes me really sad.  I want to stop being a parent because it’s so upsetting.

So, she’s not a baby any more.  She’s developing an interior life that I’m not part of.  I know that the parent-child relationship is about increasing separateness and independence.  My aim is to see my children grow into happy, autonomous, functioning adults.  But it’s a sacrifice for me.  I love them.  I love the closeness, the dependence, being the centre of their world and the source of their happiness and comfort.

I guess we’re not in Kansas any more, Toto.